It’s not often that a gift to wedding guests leads to a robust business. But that’s what happened to designer and industry veteran Álvaro González when he married Wallpaper’s Nick Vinson in 2013 and bestowed on friends a handmade pair of exotic leather two-strap sandals.
After the nuptials, González was surprised by requests from buyers at Mrporter.com and Colette for the men’s version. At the time, men’s sandals had begun popping up on runways from Prada to Fendi.
Soon, González’ chic female friends, including J.J. Martin and Caroline Issa, asked for sandals of their own, which resulted in the addition of a women’s collection last fall that was quickly scooped up by Matches.com, Harvey Nichols and Lane Crawford. Prices for both lines range from $315 to $1,080 (for alligator).
Click through the slideshow above to see the men’s and women’s styles.
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González, 49, has worked behind the scenes with labels such as Tod’s, Valentino, Loewe and Jimmy Choo for nearly 20 years. He splits his time between London and Florence, where his sandals are crafted in three area factories.
With his own brand gaining momentum, González recently stepped down from his post as design director at Valextra. “I needed to focus on my business. I’ve always worked with so many different brands,” he said. “When Mr. Porter told me they wanted to buy the exact sandals I was wearing on my feet, I knew we were off to a good start.”
Still, some guys may need coaxing to get them into a pair of mandals. “I tell men they have to get a beautiful pedicure,” González said. “If they still don’t have the confidence to show their toes, I’ve done a covered mule.” For the women’s line, he’s also introduced a transitional huarache, updated in deep metallic jewel tones.
As for the hurdle of selling sandals year-round? “We call our fall collection ‘high-summer,’” he deadpanned. “Because it’s always summer somewhere.”